“But he is motivated by a desire for financial success like so many of us.”
“Oh, I don’t think it’s mere money that motivates you. I get the feeling you like being a rich man, but you enjoy being a powerful one even more.”
“You think so?”
“I do. You wear the mantle of control with complete comfort.”
“This is true, but what makes you say so?” His tone couldn’t be mistaken for anything but genuine curiosity, no defensiveness there.
She laughed. She couldn’t help herself. And then she laughed some more. When she finally got her mirth under control, she was met by silence at the other end of the phone.
“Are you still there?”
“Yes. Are you finished laughing?”
“Um…I think so.”
“It is another first for me.”
“Being laughed at. Even Zephyr would not dare.”
“Oh, come on. You trip and fall and your best friend would not laugh?”
“I would never trip and fall.”
“I suppose you never spill sauce on your shirt at a restaurant, either.”
“Hmm…you never mistake someone’s identity in an embarrassing and amusing-to-your-friends way?”
“I do not make mistakes.”
“You sound like you mean that.”
“I also do not say things I do not mean.” Wow, such arrogance.
“Even when you are negotiating a real estate deal?”
“I never bluff.”
“Oh.” For some reason that was just a little nerve-wracking to know.
“Should I apologize for finding you funny?” she wondered out loud.
“Not necessary, but I would appreciate you sharing the joke.”
“I am the joke?” he asked in an odd voice.
“Neo, you have done nothing but boss me around since the moment I met you. Your control issues are hardly a deeply-seated psychological secret.”
“I do not have issues with control,” he replied with clear affront.
She almost laughed again, but she managed to stop herself with a judicious bite to her lower lip. It hurt, but it was effective. “No, you just insist on being the one who has it.”
“I cede control when necessary.”
“Which I’m sure isn’t often.”
“True, but there is nothing wrong with that.” His tone was almost defensive this time.
She couldn’t quite stifle the grin that caused, but she tried very hard not to let it show in her voice. “If you can handle the stress of so much responsibility, maybe not, but your insistence on changing my home to suit your whim is taking it a bit far. If you don’t mind my saying so.”
“We have discussed this. Concern for your safety is hardly a whim.”
“I thought we were implementing these changes for your safety.”
“Yesterday was disturbing for both of us. And I have bodyguards.”
“I see.” She’d thought as much, but when he had been so insistent, she’d been unable to comprehend him being that way for her sake rather than his own. “I don’t want to change my house for me.”
She didn’t want to change it at all, but particularly if the reason for doing so was some spurious need to increase her personal safety. She had lived her whole life in that house and was doing just fine. Even alone, like she had been since her father’s death.
“Consider, if the ruthlessly forward reporter that climbed your back deck had broken one of the glass panes on the French doors to your bedroom. Which he could have done all too easily. He could have gotten inside. Even if his intention was not to harm you, such an action would cause you grave distress.”
“There’s no reason to believe there will be a repeat of yesterday anytime soon, if ever.”
“You are a celebrity. You may be a shy one that does not court the spotlight, but with the increase in sales on each new album, you build a wider and wider fan base. An incident just like yesterday’s could indeed happen again, and soon.”
She shivered, feeling slightly nauseated at the prospect. Still, she had stopped being a public performer years ago. “Even though I have reasonable success with my music, I’m hardly at risk like a pop star.”
“But you are at risk.”
“Why are you so insistent?” she asked almost plaintively.
“It is what is best for you. I am used to doing what is best for the people who rely on me.”
“I am not one of your employees.”
“It does not matter.” He sighed, as if exasperated. “I have already arranged for payment if that is what concerns you.”